The last time the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors played, Donovan Mitchell scored eight points in the final minute and a half and finished with 31 points to lead the visiting Jazz to a 115-112 win on March 19 in Tampa, Fla.
That won’t happen Saturday night in Salt Lake City when the Jazz (45-18) and Raptors (26-37) meet again. The two-time All-Star is out with a sprained ankle, which has had him sidelined for two-plus weeks. The Jazz also will be without All-Star point guard Mike Conley, who’s dealing with a strained hamstring.
It makes sense, then, that Jazz coach Quin Snyder is focusing more on his team’s health than its final record or playoff position as the regular season wraps up.
“The most important thing we can do is try to get healthy,” Snyder said after the Jazz were pummeled by the Suns in Phoenix on Friday, 121-100, without his two stars.
Utah’s other All-Star — center Rudy Gobert — wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort during the loss that resulted in the Suns tying the Jazz for the best record in the league. Phoenix owns the tiebreaker over Utah, thanks to its 3-0 season series win.
“I don’t think we took it as seriously as we should,” Gobert said. “Our physicality wasn’t there. Those guys are good, but they were a little too comfortable. We’ve got to choose what we give up, and we gave up everything tonight.”
Utah still has nine games to sort things out and reclaim the No. 1 seed. It might help that the next five games are in their own arena and in front of an increased number of fans — now 6,500, the team announced Friday.
Like the Jazz, the Raptors enter this game having lost three of four overall. Toronto stumbled at Denver on Wednesday despite getting 20-point performances from three different players.
Denver used a 12-0 surge at the beginning of the fourth quarter against Raptors’ reserves to turn a two-point lead into a 121-111 victory.
“It turned the tide of the game, got them feeling pretty good and they didn’t stop pretty much until the end,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “It was not a good lineup. They didn’t get any stops and didn’t get any scores.”
Toronto played without injured starter Fred VanVleet, who has a hip injury. Malachi Flynn scored 16 in his place against the Nuggets, while OG Anunoby totaled a team-best 25 points and Kyle Lowry and Khem Birch both tallied 20 points in the loss.
Toronto is on a four-game road trip that finishes in Los Angeles with games against the Lakers and Clippers on Sunday and Tuesday, respectively.
Utah has a two-game series against San Antonio at home followed by games against Denver and Houston to conclude its homestand.
–Field Level Media